There are many reasons to keep a food diary. Among these reasons are weight loss, disease control and eating disorders. Therefore, food diaries will differ according to each individual’s needs and goals. These tips will help you keep your food diary on track and help you tailor it to your specific situation.
1. Write What You Eat When You Eat It
Food diarists may be tempted to wait until the end of the day to record the day’s food intake in the diary. This is a mistake, especially for snackers. Make sure that the food diary is in a format that is accessible at all times or near enough. This way, you can write down your food intake as it happens. This will prevent you from missing a small snack or forgetting the sauce you added to your chicken.
2. Do Not Lie To Yourself
Leaving out the salad dressing in the salad or the snack-sized candy bar that came after is not helping you and the diary is for you. There is no reason to fib in your food diary. You know it is a fib, so it makes no difference, except to ruin your food diary habits. Be accurate and write down everything you eat, even if you cheated on a diet or compulsively ate potato chips.
3. Choose a Layout and Stick to It
The layout of a food diary is going to depend on your goals. If you are looking to eat more, such as with an eating disorder, you will want to set your calorie goals in the diary and list your calorie, fat and nutrient intakes. Compare these with what is considered healthy so your confidence in your eating habits will grow. Be sure to reach those healthy suggestions every day. If you are working on a diet and know your eating is affected by your mood, list your mood next to the foods you eat. Once you know what should be included in your diary as it pertains to your goals and needs, be consistent. Always list those items.
4. Set Goals and List Those Goals in the Journal
There is always a goal if a person is keeping a food diary, even if that goal is merely to eat less junk food. On the first page of the diary, list the goals and any pertinent figures, such as weight, caloric intake, etc. This will be a reference page for assessing achievement of those goals.
5. Keep the Journal Where it is Convenient
Having a food diary on your computer is not helpful for a person who works outside all day. Conversely, a paper diary is pointless for someone who is near his or her computer all day long. Choose a medium for your food diary that suits your needs. If you do not carry a bag and are moving about all day, choose a diary that fits in your pocket. If you are likely to forget about or lose a little diary, get a big notebook and keep it in a bag or on your desk.
6. Include Beverages
A very important aspect of food monitoring that is often overlooked is beverages. Many people do not think about it, but there are calories, fat and nutrients in almost all beverages. Unless you are drinking only water, you need to record what you are drinking. Even healthy drinks like pure fruit juice can render your intake counts inaccurate. Write down everything about beverages as you would about food — amount, calories, fat, etc.
Keeping a diary of food intake becomes easier over time. Once goals are memorized and habits are formed, it can take very little time and virtually no effort. Even if the goals are not met, it enhances awareness of a person’s body through what they eat, so it should not be abandoned due to perceived failure. Keep going until the information causes positive change in your life.